De’Aaron Fox’s postgame comments are a rare dose of NBA honesty about playing hard

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Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox spoke on the small margin of difference between every NBA team as they each strive to “play sharp.”

It’s easy to talk trash against an entire NBA team, especially one that shows obvious signs of struggle in a win-deprived season. That’s why the Sacramento Kings have gotten heat for missteps throughout the year, but as De’Aaron Fox notes, critique should be more contextual than asking players to “play harder.”

“I’m asking this question with pure respect,” a Kings reporter began after the Kings’ 124-101 loss to the Toronto Raptors. “Whether it’s in the moment, in the locker room, away from the court, do you guys ask each other, ‘What are you playing for?’ I mean, you guys have got storybook careers. A lot of people want to be in your position that would go out and play their hearts out. Do you guys ever ask each other that before you take the court?”

Fox took the opportunity to respond about what he and his teammates play for to dispel a commonly-held sports myth: it’s not about playing hard, it’s about playing sharp.

“The thing is, it’s not just about playing hard,” Fox said. “There’s not too many people in this world who can be a lazy motherf****r and make it to the NBA. Everybody played hard to get here, everybody plays hard when they are here. It’s about just being sharp.”

De’Aaron Fox: The NBA isn’t about “playing hard”; it’s about “playing sharp”

Fox goes on to describe how the margin of difference is actually relatively small between professional sports teams. While it’s easy for fans and analysts to look on and deride players, all of these athletes are professionals who were in the top one percent of collegiate athletes. And of these, few are able to sustain long-lasting careers in the NBA.

The difference, Fox notes, is about playing “sharp”: being on top of one’s game by utilizing strategies to take advantage of opposing weaknesses. Rather than an issue of stamina and endurance or “playing with heart”, it’s about executing a game plan effectively. Additionally, as Fox notes, most NBA coaches run the same sort of strategies.

“There’s not too many teams in the league that are running complicated stuff,” Fox said. “Most people have a coach from a similar coaching staff and they copy whatever coach they were under and everybody is running the same s***.”

While playing for a loose ball, which could go either way, could arguably require playing harder than the opponent, coverages are not about playing hard but about playing sharp, says Fox.

“You’re not giving up 130 because you’re not playing hard,” Fox said.

While onlookers can only observe what is physically displayed, the mental aspect of the game prevails as the most important feature of basketball. After all, Allen Iverson would have never even made it if he believed stature was everything — Iverson played hard, but he also played sharp. Ideally, the Kings will be able to pull it together and do the same over the next few months.

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